eL Seed’s Calligraffiti Project in Doha Brings Art to Public

Tunisian-French street artist eL Seed is bringing art to the public of Doha, in his calligraffiti project on Salwa Road — one of the largest graffiti projects in the world.

eL Seed is working with a handful of community artists to decorate 52 walls on Salwa Road, totalling 730 metres of a riff on Arabic calligraphy painted in “Wild Style” graffiti — creating a unique art form called “calligraffiti”.

In April 2013, he discussed the project and public art with Rami El Samahy, architect and CMUQ professor, and architect Tim Makower, at the Doha Architecture Forum talk “Making the City Public.”

“We wanted to create a community project with the city, and bring art to people,” said eL Seed, whose Salwa Road project was commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority and the Public Works Authority (Ashgal), which has a 5-part video series on YouTube. “Though I was commissioned, this is a community project, it’s their choice of colour and what to write.”

Some calligraphy writings are from Qatar’s national anthem, including such quotes as “Travel the high road; Travel by the guiding light of the Prophets” and “Doves they be at times of peace, Warriors they are at times of sacrifice,” according to Time Out Doha.

eL Seed has launched to international fame over the past year, as he stunningly decorated the Jara Mosque minaret in his hometown of Gabés, Tunisia, sparking conversation over the role of Arabic graffiti, public art and democracy. The project is being profiled in the upcoming film “Tacapes”.

eL Seed with sketches for his Salwa Road project in Doha, Qatar. / Courtesy eL Seed in Doha.

“At QMA, and in public art, we really try to bring the newest form, and we try to relate what we do to the Arab culture and to the company culture,” said Khalid Ali, project manager, QMA, in the first video. “So to have an artist like eL Seed to come here and do 52 panels, it’s huge.”

Despite Doha’s world-class museums, public art is mostly monuments in roundabouts — and even those are vanishing due to street straightening.

But can graffiti done on a highway underpass really be considered “public art”?

“Highway art is normal, like in Paris,” eL Seed said. “Even at 120 kph, you can see the art. For the mural, we created a ‘liquid alphabet,’ which moves with the viewer.”

Graffiti artist eL Seed says 90 percent of his work is improv freestyle while he’s painting, here at Salwa Road in Doha, Qatar. / Image courtesy eL Seed in Doha.

Addressing the tension between commissions and freestyle painting, eL Seed said: “I’m honoured to travel the world for commissions, but you lose the essence of your work if it’s only commissions. To keep subversive, I take a spray can and paint where I want to go. On Salwa Road, when I’m painting it’s like improv, 90 percent is freestyle.”

eL Seed criticised the street artists in the region who do not address the local social context, and the perceptions of audience members who asked about the link between graffiti and the underprivileged.

“A graffiti artist is does not have to be underprivileged,” eL Seed said, calling it a “Westernised mindset.” He added: “We all have the idea that graffiti is by the underprivileged, but for example in France, it’s by the well-off white people who are fighting the system. Would a legal wall (like New York’s 5 Pointz NYC) be a solution here?”

As eL Seed’s Doha project finishes up, does he have any plans to paint the town? “I’ve been spotting a lot of lost walls,” he said, “and I can’t leave with only Salwa Road.” -30-

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Can Rem Koolhaas’ Qatar National Library Succeed in Promoting Literacy with Books?

QNL's Rare Arab Books Collection

Visitors descend into Qatar National Library’s Rare Arab Books collection like an explorer entering a Pharaoh’s tomb. / Photo: QNL.

Libraries must encourage interaction with books to promote literacy, even in the face of a rapidly digitising world, Pritzker-Prize winning architect Rem Koolhaas said at VCUQatar’s Tasmeem Doha art and design conference in Doha on 17 March.

“We have to make the encounter with the book inevitable and part of the experience itself,” Koolhaas said in his presentation “Hybrid-Making, Creativity and Luck.” The Dutch national’s OMA firm is designing Qatar Foundation’s Qatar National Library, set to open in Education City in 2014.

In the Qatar National Library’s brilliant design, the building’s corners are folded like books, creating entrances that lead to indoor terraces, enabling views of every book and department.

“It’s like archaeology,” Koolhaas said, “where you can walk over a city of books.” Visitors can then descend into the basement like an explorer entering a Pharaoh’s tomb, discovering the library’s gems of the Rare Arab Books collection.

All of this sounds fantastic — but will the current generation take to books like they have to mobile devices? “For a culture that’s working hard on literacy, it’s a good point of departure,” Koolhaas said.

Qatar’s National Library will include 60 online databases and 300 public computers, multimedia stations, a performance space and a cafe. The library is also a founding partner of UNESCO’s World Digital library to digitise 500,000 Qatar-related records.

Rem Koolhaas

Rem Koolhaas, of OMA. / Photo: OMA.

In Doha, Koolhaas is also designing HIA Airport City and the glowing cube of the Qatar Foundation Headquarters. OMA’s research studio AMO has fascinating Gulf studies in the Al Manakh online publication.

Koolhaas has experience designing libraries of the future, with the Seattle Public Library (2004). Its incredible design includes a welcoming space and computer terminals — but also stacks and a spiralling core of books.

Seattle Public Library has received rave reviews in the Times and New Yorker, though Project for Public Spaces says it “turns its back on the city.”

QNL's corners fold up like a book.

QNL’s corners fold up like a book, opening up entrances that lead to terraces. / Photo: QNL.

At the conference, one person asked Koolhaas if these kinds of buildings create challenges for people with special needs, but he disagreed.

“I once did a house for a person in a wheelchair, and he said, ‘I want the full complexity of the world. I’m a prisoner, and I want stimulation,'” Koolhaas explained. “I think [yours] is the wrong assumption, the opposite is twice as likely.” -30-

Behind-the-Scenes at Abu Dhabi’s Hyatt Capital Gate

How can Abu Dhabi’s stunning new ADNEC-funded Hyatt Capital Gate lean at 18 degrees — more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It’s not magic — it’s just amazing architecture and engineering.

We were treated to a special behind-the-scenes tour of the building thanks to the AIA’s Middle East chapter, and led by RMJM lead architect Jeff Schofield. (More multimedia coming in a few weeks.)

The most important aspect is the straight core, which allows for every floor and room to be slightly different as the building curves. It also helps for the back-end work of say, elevators to use in case of fire, which would’ve gone slack if the core had been diagonal.

Incredibly, there’s also a small infinity pool with breathtaking views of the island palaces, and even a helipad on the roof of the 35-story building. The sampling of the 5-star hotel’s 189 rooms are similar stunning. (There’s also office space.)

The roughly 30 attendees also got to see the “guts” of the building — the complex HVAC systems, the struts holding up the pool, and inside the clear glass “skin” of the building.

Afterwards we had lunch at the swank 18 Degrees restaurant, which had excellent chicken and fish, with great service.`If you’re staying in the city for an exhibition, and can afford it, the Capital Gate is surely one of the top hotels in the city. •

Dubai’s Pearl Jumeirah Nears Completion

Pearl Jumeirah, Dubai, in September 2011. / Image courtesy Meraas.

If you had USD $100 billion to design luxury living, what would you create?

Meraas, a Dubai-based government-owned developer, was tasked with that assignment, and unveiled dizzying plans for Jumeirah Gardens — villas, towers and hotels on reclaimed islands off of Jumeirah Beach — at the 2008 Cityscape Dubai, according to The National.

Four years later, the project has been downscaled but the centerpiece of the Pearl Jumeirah remains. The reclaimed island is 8.3 million square feet, with 300 residential plots, plus “a unique 2 km promenade, central common plaza, two open beaches and a waterfront beach hotel,” according to a company brochure.

Master plan for the Pearl Jumeirah, Dubai. / Image courtesy Meraas.

From the air it looks like a luxury Levittown, with suburban-style cul-de-sacs, but the artist renditions of life on the ground looks like a fairy tale: a family crossing a stone bridge to a gazebo filled with flowers, huge windows facing the downtown with the Burj Khalifa in the background, and palm trees lining the beachfront promenade along low-slung villas. In the heart is a community park. Everything looks fairly walkable.

Artist’s rendition of the beachfront promenade on the Pearl Jumeirah, Dubai. / Image courtesy Meraas.


So who has the money to buy these villas? Apparently a lot of people — in 2010, about half the buildings were sold, mostly to Emirati buyers, but also to wealthier nationalities from the Middle East and Asia, per The National.

Meraas is tight-lipped on when residents will move in, but in 2010 The National said it could be later this year.

Abu Dhabi Won’t Have a Times Square

One Times Square

Abu Dhabi won’t have a building like One Times Square in New York, which is covered in billboards. Photo: stephenbaron via Flickr.

Buried in this Construction Week article on new signage regulations, is the revelation that Abu Dhabi won’t have a (non-mall) central shopping/entertainment district with neon billboards like New York’s Times Square, London’s Leicester Square or Tokyo’s Shibuya district.

“New signage design guidelines indicate that no sign or portion of a sign may cover an integral architectural element of a structure, obstructs views into and out of business premises, or advertise third-party products,” writes Gerhard Hope. “The intention here is plain, but again it raises the issue of regulation and enforcement.”

Though I like Abu Dhabi’s mishmash of signs — especially the neon ones along Hamdan and Electra Streets — the government should be commended for its continued push for standardisation, and keeping traffic and people moving.

The UPC also approved Broadway Malyan’s masterplan for a 55,000-person neighbourhood on Yas Island, which had won the “Best Masterplan/Urban Design Project” at the Abu Dhabi Cityscape Awards 2011.

In Dubai, the RTA has awarded the Sufouh Tram project maintenance contract to France’s Alstom Co and the Emirati-Belgian Cofely-Besix Co., and Emaar is set to add another 93,000 square meters to the Dubai Mall, reclaiming its spot as largest in the world.

Qatar is also looking at transportation projects, with construction on Doha’s metro beginning in 2013, with Qatar Railways signing a USD 535 million contract for the Lusail light rail line. Darwish’s Lagoona Mall, near Doha’s The Pearl, opened.

Farther in the region, it’s fascinating to read about the mixed bag of Soviet-era architecture of occupation in Afghanistan, from middle class housing blocks to schools, a bread factory and abandoned pool.

Skyline Stories: New Penn Station?, Housing and Foreclosure Maps, Drexel University Expansion, Augmented Reality

Big national news that some Republicans attempting to remove all non-highway/road funding, and Obama’s recently passed but potentially unsuccessful foreclosure and underwater mortgage bailout (Reuters)…but we’re not tackling those because nothing’s certain yet.

Moynihan Station would move Amtrak into the Post Office, but it will hardly affect 95 percent of Penn Station's commuters. Move Madison Square Garden to Javits and create a new light-filled Penn Station. / Image via NYT.

The Times has an incredibly in-depth map of the nation’s housing (NYT), and related maps show that home foreclosures are damaging cities and metropolitan areas, not just exurban zombie subdivisions (Atlantic Cities and WSJ).

Lots of new redevelopment plans — retrofitting many of the country’s 110,000 suburban malls into walkable downtowns (NYT), the Times ponders if the city move Madison Square Garden to Hudson Yards Site in exchange for a new grand Penn Station (NYT) and London opened its new Olympic Park (Guardian).

Artist's rendering of planned Drexel University project, housing 869 students and 11 retail businesses. / Image via Philly.com.

In Philly, Drexel University continues to expand in West Philly (Philly.com), the Reading Terminal celebrates its 120th anniversary (Philadelphia Business Journal) and the city now has its second historic industrial district with the new Wayne Junction National Historic District (Newsworks).

Volunteer planners are helping community groups in creating plans to improve the oversized and dangerous Queens Boulevard in New York (Urban Omnibus), and the same could happen in Philly with the Planning Commission graduating another class of citizen planners (Plan Philly).

Unfortunately, the state can’t come up with $100 million for SEPTA to renovate the City Hall station (Philly.com) and Florida’s high speed rail line would’ve been profitable within 10 years (Tampa Bay Online). But it’s good to see the Hiway Theater recreating its original marquee (Philly.com).

The Industrial Trust gondola, circa 1983. / Image via Providence Journal.

One of my favorite Philly buildings: Jacob Reed’s Sons Building from 1904 in Arts and Crafts Movement (Plan Philly), and the awesome Art Deco Industrial Trust Building in Providence, Rhode Island — with an airship docking station! (Providence Journal)

In tech news, the downside of technology and the city is the loss of surprise — Design Observer highlights the creeping marketing angle of augmented reality (Part 1 and Part 2), while the Times speaks of it in the death of the cyberflâneur…they’re intertwined but on opposite sides.

Two sides of trash — Hong Kong considers a “pay as you throw” system for garbage, but how can it calculate for apartments? (Atlantic Cities) and the gripping new book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” on Mumbai’s Annawadi slum and the wider world of the perils of globalization (NYT).

Abu Dhabi: Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Park?, Urban Street Design Manual, Beit Beirut Videos

IN DUBAI…the city’s reinvention in the wake of the recession is a running theme on Urban Fabric, and Brownbook profiles the potential greening of Dubai’s massive 14-lane Sheikh Zayed Road. Design firm Portland producing ambitious plans to bury it (like Boston’s Big Dig) then elevate the streets and use parks to knit together the east and west sides (Brownbook Magazine).

English design firm Portland's ideas for "greening" Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road -- by turning it into a park! / Image via Brownbook Magazine.

Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Commission released the first-ever? Urban Street Design Manual. Lots of good points — giving streets a 12 percent “road diet,” eliminating illegal parking, widening sidewalks and including tree shading. Their first prototype is the Corniche (not clear where, exactly). Have you noticed differences? (Gulf News Article and Video)

The Masdar Institute has a new video on the evolution of Abu Dhabi over the past 25 years, using aerial maps (UAE Interact).

Speaking of mapping, the city (curiously not the UPC) is using GIS technology to give developers and homeowners in-depth details on plots of land (Khaleej Times). But the UPC does have new sign regulations, plus more on gas ventilation and air conditioning units, to improve the safety and beautification of the city (AME Info).

ZonesCorp is working on a new Auto City in Mussafah, planned for completion in 2020 (Gulf News). Design firm Parsons won an award for its cross-cultural business relations in Abu Dhabi, they’ve done a lot of transit work like the Dubai Metro and Khalifa Bridge (Business Intelligence Middle East).

Abu Dhabi and Japan are forging an economic partnership (Emirates News Agency). NYU AD received a record-setting nearly 2,500 applicants for only 150 spots at the downtown Abu Dhabi campus (NYU AD: Salaam).

Elsewhere in the region…
Brownbook also has stories on Turkish firm Supercool using GIS mapping to improve Istanbul; Morocco’s Ecological Architecture and Systems of Tomorrow firm using sustainable architecture; Abu Dhabi’s organic farmers market; the gradual disappearance of Tehran, Iran’s historic neighborhood of Tajrish; and the growing Arab community of western Sydney, Australia.

At the Egyptian Coffee Shop, many of the customers are Egyptian; others are from Yemen, Algeria, Syria, and Morocco. And some are New Yorkers seeking an authentic hookah experience. / Image via NYT.

Lebanese newspaper Orient Le Jour has a great four-part video series from on the slow reconstruction of Beit Beirut, the beautiful and beleaguered Art Deco mansion that’s slated to become the city museum. (In English, subtitled in French.)
Part 1: A Unique Architecture
Part 2: The Happy Life
Part 3: In the Time of Snipers
Part 4: The Future of the “Yellow House”

Indian photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew revisits Mumbai of the 1970s-80s with his father’s archive mixed with his own photos in “Chronicles of a Past Life” (NYT India Ink). More detailed plans for Baku’s kilometer-high Azerbaijan Tower and related artificial islands (Atlantic Cities). Finally, take a trip to what may be the U.S.’ oldest hookah shop, the Egyptian Coffee Shop in Astoria, Queens in New York City (NYT).

Architects Debate Dubai’s Urban Planning Future in Connecting Neighborhoods

A postcard of Dubai, highlighting its iconic skyline. / Image via Postcards blog (karinka300.blogspot.com).

DUBAI — Nearly five years after the global financial collapse in 2008, Dubai stands at a crossroads. Though its economy and population have been growing over the past couple of years, the pause in construction allows for reflection on the city’s physical form.

At the first meeting of the year for the American Institute of Architects’ Middle East (AIA-ME) chapter at the Dubai Pavillion on January 29, architect Jonathan Ashmore of Anarchitect presented on the city’s context over the past 10 years:

  • Perception of it being a desert and ignoring the indigenous culture
  • Precedent of a postcard-like New York or Hong Kong
  • Infiltration of Dubai’s branding around the world using the Image of a successful skyline
  • Denial that the financial collapse would affect them, as there was still the buzz around the city, until the Exodus that cleared out the “dead wood” of the city.

    Now Dubai is at its Crux, the decisive stage, and there’s a Gap in the built environment.

    Plans for Business Bay, a development that is not fully completed. / Image via Real Estate Webmasters.

    “Empty space is space for renewal,” said Ashmore. “The city became fragmented, it’s not concentrated like in Europe.” These voids are opportunity for Integrated solutions and Regeneration — and re-establishing the Identity of the city and region.

    “These shouldn’t be demolitions,” said Ashmore, emphasizing reuse. “You cannot compare Dubai to global cities that have undergone cycles of growth, decay and rebirth. Now it’s time for small projects for integration and connect the interstitial spaces on a human scale.”

    Areas with potential include Ras Al-Khor (industrial district) and Business Bay (new central business district), he said. “We have to look at the micro and macro scales,” he said, emphasizing both the pedestrian scale and knitting together neighborhoods on a larger level.

    Architects responded favorably, offering a swirling mix of solutions. These ranged from top-down scaling like more central planning and having a visionary leader to push through plans, and also from the ground-up: more input from Dubai citizens, coordination with local architecture students, and temporary reuse of structures like in San Diego, Berlin or New York’s SOHO district.

    Solidere's Master Plan in the City Center (1994). Beirut's unplanned development could offer a model for Dubai. / Image via Worldview Cities.

    “But why even look that far?” one participant pointed out. Beirut, since its civil war ended in 1990, has been redeveloping spaces both from an official level with Solidère’s rebuilding the downtown, and from regular residents opening stores in half-constructed buildings.

    There does seem to be progress — the American University of Sharjah has an impressive College of Architecture, Art and Design; while Art Dubai and Design Days Dubai (in March 2012) offer the framework for reshaping the city.

    The meeting concluded with Victor Schoone talking about the upcoming annual World Water Day on March 12, 2012, the We Are Water Foundation‘s “We Art Water” film festival, and a screening of the film “Aral, the Lost Sea,” an ethereal look at the near-destruction of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

Skyline Stories: Philly’s Dilworth Plaza, Death of Coney Island, Beijing’s Failed Historic Preservation

IN PHILLY…the long-anticipated groundbreaking for the renovation of the dreary 1960’s-era Dilworth Plaza outside City Hall! The $50 million renovation is being coordinated by the Center City District, with partial funding from the DOT’s TIGER grants, and is being designed by Philly firm Kieran Timberlake, Urban Engineers and landscape architects OLIN. In 2014, there will be better access to the subways, plus a fountain/ice rink, lawn and cafe. Unfortunately, SEPTA’s $100-200 million renovation of the stations seems in doubt (Center City District).

Could Pier 9’s parking lot could hold the original Philadelphia shoreline from the 1600’s? (PlanPhilly) For the adjacent Ben Franklin Bridge, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) approved $350,000 to design the bridge’s new bike ramp; construction scheduled to start in 2013-2014 (Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia).

Lots of hope for regeneration — from the distant hopes that a Casino Tourist District to resurrect Atlantic City (Philly.com), to an Inky billboard reviving Market East (NYT) to the long-shuttered Cubist? Tioga Theater being restored! (Hidden City). Meanwhile two fascinating TEDx-Philly videos on networking cities with Jennifer Pahlka (PlanPhilly) and mapping experiences with Amy Hillier (TEDx Philly).

Thor's Coney Island: Stillwell Avenue side of Joe Sitt's sterile and suburban looking new building in the new Coney Island. / Image via Amusing the Zillion and Tricia Vita.

IN NEW YORK…I never thought I’d write this, but the suburbanization of Coney Island has arrived (Amusing the Zillion). At least there are some relics of the past in Times Square (Forgotten NY). Twenty years after the Crown Heights riots, the neighborhood is in the path of being gentrified…for better or worse NYT).

Times Square’s pedestrianization seems to have ripple effect across the city, as developers are gobbling up parking lots — and not replacing the parking spaces (NYT). Intriguing study on taxi trips — they add to transit, not replace it! But if transit was more frequent and faster transit, then wouldn’t New York need fewer taxis like in European cities? (Atlantic Cities). Meanwhile a study shows that neighborhoods with higher crime cause people to walk less, but also take transit more (Mineta Transportation Institute).

Exciting times for sustainability in the city — Columbia has mapped energy use building-by-building (Solar One), tidal energy comes to Roosevelt Island (NYLCV) and new studies could play an important role in bringing urban agriculture into green infrastructure (Urban Omnibus). Watch for an upcoming film on Jamaica Bay, from my former Queens Chronicle editor Dan Hendrick (Queens Chronicle), and a fascinating interview with Michael Van Valkenburgh, the landscape architect who designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, on how he used topography to break the Manhattan grid (BMW Guggenheim Lab).

Plus a powerful photo essay on Cambodians in the Bronx
(Magnum Emergency Fund), and a cool audio-visual project by Benjamin Norman, tracing a year in New York with his iPhone (Milk Made).

NATIONWIDE… everyone is talking about redeveloping suburbs. Their built environment is literally killing us (NYT: Well) and developers are wondering how to redevelop around dead or dying strip malls (Atlantic Cities). Houston (of all cities) is adding green space with its Buffalo Bayou plan (Atlantic Cities), One Bay Area’s “Plan Bay Area” project hopes to make similar improvements (One Bay Area) and Boston is redeveloping the former Herald newspaper site on the waterfront (Boston.com),

Meanwhile, the Rails to Trails Conservancy published a groundbreaking study showing that people do walk and bike in rural America — in time for the hopes of restoring non-car money in the federal transportation budget (Streetsblog: DC). In transit news, high-occupancy toll lanes have reduced congestion but disappointingly not increased transit use (Atlantic Cities), but GPS tracking could improve transit (). Florida may have rejected high-speed rail, but Ft. Lauderdale is getting a downtown streetcar (Sun-Sentinel)

The USDA’s food desert map is a great idea — but with only a handful of Philly and New York City Census tracts showing food deserts, then how is it being measured? (USDA) Glad that it’s “the end of the segregated century” of American cities — but as the country re-urbanizes, could it swing back in the next 50 years? (Manhattan Institute) Could downtown cinemas hold the key to downtown rejuvenation? UCLA’s Film and TV Archive is now showing weekly films at the beautiful Million Dollar Theater (UCLA). The Architectural League announced its Emerging Voices awards (Architecture League)

Preservationists in Beijing awoke last weekend to find that the house of the famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin had been reduced to rubble. / Photo via NYT.

INTERNATIONALLY… China may have had its “Penn Station moment” of pushing for historic preservation, as Beijing destroyed the house of famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin (NYT). Meanwhile Indian cities are offering possibilities for low-carbon footprints (India Times), but are those too late for the rapidly growing Pearl River Delta mega-region of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, with 55 million people? (New Geography)

In Northern Ireland, Belfast is building a new museum for the Titanic in the shipyard neighborhood where it was built, opening for the 100th anniversary of its fated voyage next year (BBC), and Seville, Spain’s massive mushroom-shaped public art thing is actually successful? (Atlantic Cities)

Emotional mapping and the city — can the built environment improve residents’ moods?
BMW Guggenheim Lab A new study finds happy cities are beautiful, clean, safe and have safe drinking water Atlantic Cities. Maybe the real secret is building beautiful bookstores? (Flavorwire) I’ve only been to Paris’ Shakespeare and Co.

Cool look at maps from Frank Jacobs of the Strange Maps blog: South Sudan expects to re-plan its two biggest cities in the shape of animals, entering the obscure but fascinating field of cartozoology! Plus the never-built “Sham Paris” during World War II, and the notorious land octopus

Abu Dhabi: Metro and Light Rail by 2017, Tripoli Urban Planning, Baku’s Crystal Hall

After last week’s announcement of the raft of new infrastructure funding, there are a few more details on the transit systems.

Will Abu Dhabi's metro resemble European/North American ones or Dubai's monorail? / Image via AD UPC's Plan 2030.

Both the mostly-underground metro and light rail/tram are expected to be operational by 2016-2017. The metro would run 131 km, and there’s also curiously talk of a 31 km monorail. (Gulf News). Besides new highways to Dubai and Saudi Arabia, the design for the light rail line is supposed to be done this summer (The National).

The Urban Planning Council (UPC) is holding community charettes in the Eastern Region, including Al Ain (UPC), and is pushing the “Comprehensive Cooling Plan” to target inefficiency in buildings under the their Estimada’s program (The National).

Al Ain National Museum. / Image via ADACH.

The Al Ain National Museum, which opened in 1971, is scheduled to undergo a huge renovation (The National), while Scotland’s Energy Technology Partnership signed an agreement with Masdar City to collaborate on green energy projects (Huffington Post).

UAE University students in the Department of Geography and Urban Planning are going to use SuperGIS Desktop Lab Kit and GIS Learning CD (Directions Mag). The World Ports and Trade Summit returns to Abu Dhabi in April (Khaleej Times).

Elsewhere in the region…
Fascinating look at Tripoli’s urban planning in different eras — from the organic pre-colonial growth of the old town, to the Italian colonial-era of grand boulevards and neighborhood squares, to the Qaddafi-era bubbles of suburban life (Atlantic Cities).

Tour Beirut’s Little Armenia neighborhood (CNN). Should the private sector take over recycling and other city services in Amman, Jordan? (Tareeq)

Baku's Crystal Hall. / Image via World Architecture News.

Designs unveiled for Baku’s Crystal Hall, the venue for the upcoming Eurovision contest in only a few months! Apparently folds in to a larger waterfront redevelopment plan (World Architecture News). Istanbul, Turkey became one of Europe’s safest cities, primarily by lots of community policing (Atlantic Cities).